Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Review: The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton is my first five-star read of the year.  I'm going to try my very best to avoid unintelligible gushing during this review and organize my thoughts beyond "LOVE LOVE LOVE" but it's hard.  Because I fell head over heels for this one.  It's the story of a daughter who learns that her mother was evacuated from London to a castle in the country as a child.  The daughter, Edie, has never been close to her mother and begins to investigate the castle and its owners to learn more about her mother's history.  Three sisters live in the castle and are sheltering a mysterious secret past.

Beautiful!  I have little reading tabs that I use to mark passages that I find especially beautiful and I used up about half my pack on this book.  Each character in the book has a unique relationship with books, reading, and the literary world that is revealed throughout the book.  Edie is a publisher who felt books were her refuge growing up, the three sisters are living in the shadow of their father's fame as an author and his expectations for their own literary accomplishments, and Edie's mother has a connection to literature that her daughter never knew about.  The development of each character centers to a large degree around her relationship to books and literature - which produces amazing passages on what it means to be a reader and a writer.

Another aspect of the writing that I loved was the fact that the characters were multi-dimensional.  Each character had unlikable traits, as well as endearing traits.  I also liked that some of the story was left to the reader's imagination.  Don't get me wrong, the author does an amazing job of wrapping up the plot, but leaving out all of the minute details about past relationships and loves really did a great job of making the reader feel like the characters were real - as if things had happened to them before the book began.  Instead of telling the reader exactly why and how the characters were motivated, some was left to the imagination.

I loved the story as much as the writing.  It's an excellent example of gothic literature, which is a genre I particularly enjoy.  The length and breadth of the story reminded me in some ways of The Historian, which is another great gothic novel.  The atmosphere of Milderhurst Castle is perfect for the story and the descriptions of the castle and the grounds are stunning.

One negative review I read on Goodreads that really jumped out at me was that the author used words for the sake of words.  I wanted to jump out of my chair and scream "Yes!  Exactly!!  That's the point of the whole thing!"  But for me that is what makes the story so beautiful - the writing so accurately reflects the characters and the plot.  The book centers around women who have intimate relationships with language and who have spent their entire lives in the shadow of words.  How appropriate that the author uses written language in such a beautiful way!  In a book about the beauty and danger of the written word, it is perfect for the author to use words for their own sake.  Not just any words though - beautiful words.  Some authors write a string of words for the sake of taking up space, but Kate Morton has obviously chosen each word with care.  There are times when writing is worth being included for the sole reason that the words and their combinations are beautiful - and this is one of them.

Congratulations to Kate Morton on a beautiful novel.  I highly recommend it and cannot thank Simon and Schuster enough for giving me the opportunity to review it.  I'd love to include some quotes from the book, but my copy is an ARC and reviewers were requested not to quote from it.  I'll be purchasing a hardback copy of the finished book however, and will post quotes when I get them. 


  1. This book sounds great. I'll have to see if I can get my hands on it.

  2. This sounds like a great read. If you're interested in how children were evacuated from London watch Carrie's War.

  3. This was my first finished book of 2011 and I really liked it, too! Kate Morton is becoming one of my new favorite authors.

  4. With a review like that, this one will have to go on my TBR list! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  5. I'm requesting this from the library asap!

  6. Oh I knew it was going to be awesome! Thanks for the review!